Performance Practices

Authored by: Stephen Rose

The Ashgate Research Companion to Henry Purcell

Print publication date:  May  2012
Online publication date:  April  2016

Print ISBN: 9780754666455
eBook ISBN: 9781315613024
Adobe ISBN: 9781317043270


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When systematic research into performance practice began in the 1950s and 1960s, many scholars neglected the styles suitable for seventeenth-century composers such as Henry Purcell. Frederick Neumann’s Ornamentation in Baroque and Post-Baroque Music (1978) aimed to elucidate the ornaments appropriate for J.S. Bach’s music, viewing the previous century’s embellishment practices largely as a prelude to those of Bach. 1 1

1 Frederick Neumann, Ornamentation in Baroque and Post-Baroque Music: with Special Emphasis on J.S. Bach (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1978).

Robert Donington’s Performer’s Guide to Baroque Music (1973) implied that there was a single style valid throughout the period 1600–1750, using such terms as ‘the Baroque Attitude’ and ‘Baroque Style’. 2 2

2 Robert Donington, A Performer’s Guide to Baroque Music (London: Faber, 1973), pp. 15 and 18.

Yet it is anachronistic to impose an all-purpose ‘Baroque Style’ on Purcell’s music, not least because his output was created before the major changes in instruments and performing techniques that occurred around 1700. All the same, until the 1990s many performers tackled Purcell’s music in ways more appropriate for Handel, for instance by adding oboes and a double bass to the orchestra in Dido and Aeneas. 3 3

3 As, for instance, on Henry Purcell, Dido and Aeneas, English Concert, dir. Trevor Pinnock (Archiv 289 427 6242 8, rec. 1988).

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